My mom used to say that in the early days of raising us girls she slept in a swamp. Before having Mazen, I didn’t quite get what could be so….damp….about nursing. Now I get it!!
My perception of breastfeeding before actually doing it was like an on/off switch – if your baby suckled, milk came out. However, it is much messier than that! I leak on one side while he’s feeding on another (I learned this this hard way and soaked a shirt when we had company over!) Sometimes when I get out of a hot shower I’m already leaking. I leaked through washable breast pads and can only use the disposable ones right now. Mazen sometimes spits up all over me. We sweat together when we’re skin-to-skin when it’s hot. Sometimes his diaper leaks on me. It’s a SWAMP!
Going back to his birth, I was lucky that he latched on right away. He nursed for about 45 minutes right after birth. It didn’t hurt and sort of felt like you’d expect it would if a baby was gently sucking on your nipple. He also didn’t go through that 24-hours-of-sleepiness that most newborns do – he wanted to eat every 2 hours from the start! The nurses and lactation consultants said his latch looked great. A LC told me what a swallow sounded like – a little sigh almost – and I’m glad because it assured me he was actually getting colostrum.
I’d say it was maybe the middle of day 2 when it started to hurt. My nipples just started to get sore. His suck was stronger, and he was tugging his way through the feedings. My doctor recommended these Soothies cooling pads, and I started wearing them all the time. They really did soothe.
On day two at lunchtime, my parents brought me my first placenta pills from home (I had my placenta encapsulated and it was ready just about 24 hours after the birth – more on that in another post). By that evening, my boobs were hard as rocks, and my real milk had come in! I’m not sure if the placenta was entirely to thank for the quick arrival, but I think the timing was pretty fast for a first time mom otherwise.
The rest of week 1, my nipples hurt pretty badly. They started to get scabs and one time (I’m very lucky it was only one time!) one of them bled enough that Maze spit up some of the blood. It was quite horrifying, and thankfully didn’t happen again.
Part of the reason it hurt is that his lower jaw would just not open quite wide enough. LC’s and nurses had me tugging it down on it to encourage him to open wider, but it just felt like he was chomping with his lower gums rather than making the complete duck lips. Imagine if you had a cut on your arm and someone was pushing on it with a screwdriver. over and over and over. That’s kind of how it felt! I tried using lanolin, but I found it incredibly sticky and it hurt to rub on. I found the Mother Love Nipple Cream (which I had ordered in advance upon recommendation) to be SO much better. But it didn’t seem to be helping me all that much with the soreness. Now that I’m less sore, though, I can tell this cream does help reduce surface pain a bit. Love that it’s all natural and it rubs on so well too.
One night when it hurt particularly badly and I was tired and not looking forward to another 8 hours of feeding and rocking, I broke down in tears. I totally understood why women give up on breastfeeding. Matt offered to watch Maze for more of the night so I could get better sleep and gave me an encouraging pep talk. It helped a lot.
That evening, my friend had told me that her midwife told her that the Soothies pads were better for short term use and that when used 24/7, they prevented healing. (I still use them on occasion – chilled – after a rough feeding, but don’t wear them full time.) Apparently open air (and sunlight!) was the best thing to “put on.” So that night, I slept topless.
And I believe that night was a turning point.
During the next few days, Maze seemed to open his mouth wider. Rather than chomping like a fish when I offered, he started holding his mouth open like a baby bird. We were making progress. Now I understand why breastfeeding is something that both mom and baby have to learn together.
I decided also to put more effort into getting his latches right. I went to KellyMom.com and watched videos on You Tube. I observed what “drinking” looks like in comparison to “nibbling.” He was doing a fair amount of nibbling at the end of his feedings. His latch looked good though and he was clearly “drinking.” I worked on pointing my nipple up to the roof of his mouth, which also helped to get it in a better position. And I learned how to unlatch him without pain (pry the finger in and open the jaw before attempting to pull out!) Before I was afraid to unlatch him because that hurt almost as much as the bad latch itself!
Lastly, I went to see a volunteer from Le Leche League to give us some tips. She helped me with positions and said his latch was great – of COURSE he latched perfectly for her! It was still a helpful visit though, and I was glad for the reassurance. He put on his birth weight very quickly and making plenty of dirty diapers, so although I was being sent through the wringer, I knew he was happy.
Week 2 still hurt a lot, but we were getting better. We had a day or two of really good feeds followed by a bad day. By the beginning of week 3 [now], things are 90% good. Still a little pain with the latching on, but not the toe-curling, grunting, cursing kind from earlier.
I brought the Boppy to the hospital, but once we were home I realized how much more supportive My Brest Friend is. It’s our nursing pillow of choice upstairs, and I use the Boppy when I’m down on the couch (sitting cross-legged it’s easier to use because I can bring it up higher). I’m glad I have both so I don’t have to lug a pillow up and downstairs all the time. I actually think nursing him without any pillow is kind of nice too, but it’s way too tiring on the arms to do that more than a little. I used to make fun of the little pocket on the Brest Friend pillow – it’s so little and seemed pointless! But then I realized it’s actually great for storing an extra breast pad, nipple cream and a burp cloth at all times. If only it had a built in water fountain too! We also do side lying position at night, which hurts more than the other positions, but we’re learning! My whole upper back actually was REALLY sore during the first week – despite the pillows, it was hard not to hunch. I was also picking him up a lot, which contributed to the tired muscles.
When it’s time to nurse, there are 3 things that I must have nearby:
1) My water bottle. A MUST! So thirsty. Thanks many times to Matt for rushing it to me filled with ice water.
2) My phone or tablet to use the Baby Connect app (so helpful for tracking these early weeks).
3) A burp cloth.
Do not try to breastfeed without a burp cloth! It will inevitably be the time when he spits up while he’s drinking – double the milk everywhere! We received a lot of burp cloths at our baby showers, and I use them all all the time!
I also didn’t realize how much breastfeeding would affect my wardrobe! At home, it’s not a big deal to pull up my shirt or just wear a bra (because if I went topless there would be lots of leaking!), but when we go out in public, I really have to think about the logistics of feeding him somewhat blindly under a cover (I feel most comfortable under a cover at this point in time.) This bra by Bravado is my favorite – so comfortable and surprisingly supportive for a seamless bra. I also bought a handful of nursing shirts from Motherhood Maternity and this Bravado tank that I LOVE but it has been too hot to layer too much with it. I have never been able to go braless in a tank top (even one with a built in bra) – until this one. One major drawback to breastfeeding: wearing a dress (that is not a nursing-specific or wrap dress) is pretty much impossible.
I have good things to say – the peek-a-boo neckline is super helpful (latching under a swaddle blanket is not nearly as easy to do) and the fabric is more than plentiful to cover 3/4 of my body and let his legs get some air. Just like the My Brest Friend, I laughed at the little pocket on the front when I first saw it, but I have since come to realize how handy it is for holding a breast pad while nursing!! Brilliant addition : ) My only complaint about the cover is it gets very hot under there. In the warmer months, this is a pretty big problem, however, once winter is here, it will be a huge plus! I’m not sure how to get around that in the summer – perhaps a more breathable fabric for warm months? But overall, very glad I have this because there’s nothing as convenient if you’re a little modest like me. It has allowed me to nurse at the mall, in restaurants, and whenever someone is visiting without showing anything.
Still need to learn: how to nurse in a sling/carrier!
Maze + Me
And now the important part: Maze is so cute when he nurses. He makes the funniest faces and raises his eyebrows at me. He looks up at me like a little whale with one eyeball. And after he’s done, he pops off and rests his head on me, using me like a little pillow, as if to say “Ahhhhhh this is the life.” After that he does these cute little stretches where he puts his arms above his head and flexes his biceps and squishes up his face. The silliest thing he does is what Matt and I call “Angry Bird” – he’s like a little woodpecker popping on and off and darting his little head around. It’s quite hilarious!! We have no idea why he does it. These are my favorite moments together.
I’m still looking forward to the day when he latches on without any pain, and hopefully that day isn’t too far off.
Until he gets teeth, that is!!